Guest Blog: Alone and Not That Awesome
Good morning, My peoples! This post is a special one, since it is the first ever Guest Blog. I hope you welcome our blogging guest, Rachel H.T. Mendell! Enjoy, my lovely peoples. I’ll be back later. *waves*
Alone and Not So Awesome
by Rachel H.T. Mendell
I was single once, a long, long time ago, but I didn’t feel very awesome at the time.
Being an introvert, and a people pleaser, I struggled with the things that my friends found fun. I wasn’t sure if I was an introvert at the time. “Introvert” was a bad word in the 70s, so I was labeled “shy” … which was also a bad word, but not quite as bad as “introvert.”
“Get over it” was the phrase I heard a lot, sometimes “Why can’t you just [be like everyone else]”, and even “you’re just lazy” or “you’re a scaredy cat.”
But introverts are survivors. I was able to find friends that understood my need for quiet, for in-depth discussion, for long walks alone.
A few friends understood I hated small talk. I called myself “socially awkward” because I would continually try to steer conversation past small talk and into something deeper. In a group this does not work, in fact, it makes people uncomfortable.
Finally, I found I was better off remaining silent and listening.
I spent most of my single life being confused. I remember getting “flirting lessons” in the restroom by a girl three years older than I was. I took those lessons seriously and practiced them when I could. I believed the New Moral Law of “Every girl shall have a boyfriend. This makes you normal.”
And I so wanted to be normal.
I remember days when I would walk from one building to another on our huge high school campus in Phoenix, praying the whole time that no one would hit me or try to talk to me. It was a semi-rough school with gangs and prostitutes and drug dealers. South High was much more dangerous, they had switchblades and guns, so I considered myself lucky. I had good grades (carried a 4.0 all four years) which gave me identity. But it didn’t help get friends. In fact, I was considered a brainiac, a weird duck, a social misfit. Of course, I tried to change myself to fit in. I even tried using cuss words.
Being involved in music meant I had to perform. Back when I was in sixth grade, I had devised a way to stand in front of the congregation and not be nervous. So I was able to “hide inside myself” when our choir performed on a regular basis, even though I was in the front row. I still stressed for an entire week before concert time, competition time, performance time of any kind. The day after a performance you could find me sleeping it off until 2 in the afternoon.
I was in the front row because I was short. Being short had lots of advantages, but mostly people looked over my head—another nice way to hide.
In college I struggled with making even one friend. My first roommate was assigned to me, we had no choice. She was an introvert as well, which I didn’t realize at the time. She ignored me the entire year, glued to her desk, studying. She was a product of the private school program. I felt I was competing for grades with students from accelerated schools, which gave them The Study Advantage. I didn’t have to study much in high school. I was #7 in my class (of 600). I thought I could ace freshman year. Instead I almost flunked out. My roommate held a 4.0. She didn’t talk to me, plus she got better grades. Ouch.
Plus, I didn’t have a boyfriend, which made me a double failure. Double ouch.
But thank You, God, for good friends. They got me through all four years of college. I didn’t have to repeat any classes and I graduated with a class of 160. I managed to attain and discard one boyfriend per year. But that goal was beginning to lose its luster.
Most of my successful friends were able to make it through college without even one boyfriend. How did they do it? Why couldn’t I do it?
I drowned in my first job and finished the year in failure (I thought). I took another job which was a better fit. But I still struggled with shyness, hiding, stress in front of my classroom, lack of confidence in myself and in my abilities, and being a good friend.
By the time I married I thought all that struggle would be over. If you are married, you are whole, I thought.
I soon discovered that all the issues I thought were caused by singlehood followed me into marriage. It wasn’t my status as a person within a relationship that would make me successful. It was confidence in me that would make me successful.
And then, at age 25 and babies arriving every two years, I had to face the fact that I had depended on people to make me happy. It was a tough lesson. I wasn’t any good being single because I wasn’t good being me.
Slowly, slowly I rediscovered myself. I read books. I studied the Bible and prayed more. I asked simple questions, sometimes getting the “wow, you sure are stupid” look, but I had become a more humble person – a person in need of remaking.
My awesome hubby stood by me through all the craziness. He watched in horror as I consumed the entire works of Shakespeare (even his long poems). He held the baby as I worked out each evening or went for the Frustrated Mommy Walk. He endured my incessant words as I worked out philosophies, insights, knew knowledge, new projects and new pregnancies.
And then, one day, I stood in my new driveway of my new home and realized I had arrived. I knew who I was. I had a mission – several missions in fact – and I was content.
The stress still comes, sometimes with migraines or sickness, but I know how to manage it. I am an introvert. I can’t change it. I must make the most of it.
So I have embraced my introversion. I know my strengths and I slowly work on my weaknesses, forgiving myself, giving myself room to fail. As I study introversion I learn more and more about myself and the mistakes I was forced to make growing up.
It is so much better now that I know I don’t have to pretend to be an extrovert. Sometimes I wish I could go back and do Single over again with what I know now. But I’m happy where I am.
I’m just me. And me is married, with kids (and one grand kid) … and awesome.
If you feel you might be an introvert (or someone you know is); if any of the above resonated with you, if you are feeling outside of life and people think you’re weird, I encourage you to check out some of the new ideas out there:
Introvert Spring Facebook:
Marissa Baker writes extensively about introversion: https://marissabaker.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/the-problem-of-being-too-agreeable/
Here’s a link to info about a super awesome book written by an introvert, “Quiet” – life changing:
A large body of work is emerging about how introverts work and live. Here’s another comforting and encouraging book, Introvert Power:
Or just put “introvert” in your search engine and get yourself some encouragement.
Rachel H.T. Mendell writes freelance from home in her office (The Introvert Dream) that she selfishly grabbed for herself when her sixth child moved out, which is much nicer than the converted closet she wrote in for almost 20 years. Rachel writes novels, poetry, plays, essays, columns, articles, short stories, guest blogs, long letters, devotionals and experimental allegory. She has been published in various magazines as well as the Galion Inquirer, The Morrow County Sentinel, the Crestline Advocate and online at Richland Source. You can find a few of her most recent articles in Heart of Ohio Magazine and floating around cyberspace. She keeps a blog, Domestic Mobility (http://domesticmobility.blogspot.com), and has recently started a website (http://www.rachelhtmendell.com). Rachel happily answers emails (also an introvert dream) at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is married and has seven children and one grandson. When Rachel is not writing, she’s gardening, caring for chickens, rabbits and cats. She lives with her family in the country (The Ultimate Introvert Dream) in Morrow County, Ohio.